1930’s Flour Sack Dresses

During the 1930’s great depression in the USA people did not have much as money was extremely tight that in a decline of available resources. Individuals had to make do with what they had. Clothing was repaired and up-cycled were possible, women even began using the material from flour sacks to sew dresses. Flour sacks were typically made from cheap cotton, thus, providing a great resource for clothing material. When the flour sack companies caught wind of what women were doing they began decorating the sacks in pretty patterns, even printing patterns for women to follow to produce children’s toys. The Percy Kent Bag Company even hired the best textile designers from Europe and New York City to produce intricate and pretty designs using colourfast dyes. See figures         where this patterns and garments are pictured.

Taken from the Flashback website these are accounts from someone who remembers using the sacks to make clothing for her family and a man who remembers finding the bags with the correct pattern for his mother:

“We had two big chicken houses and used fourteen sacks of feed every week. My husband got most of the sacks. He always tried to get two or three of the same pattern so we would have enough to make something. He did a pretty good job of picking them out.”
‘Feed sacks may have looked like dress fabric, but they were stacked in store piles with little fanfare and employees were surprised by requests to move several hundred-pound bags of chicken feed to get to the perfect dress print pattern. One man remembered trips to the feed store as a teenager when it was important to run this errand with several friends because, “his mother’s preferred patterns would always be on the bottom, so he and his “buddies” would have to hoist sacks until they secured the patterns his mother wanted.”…’

It is interesting to hear people’s accounts of using the flour sacks as I did not realize individuals used to use the sacks to form clothing. It is also endearing to hear a story of someone’s mother being difficult and wanting the bags from the bottoms as they had the pattern she wanted, it reminds me of something my own mother would do.

In 1950, cheaper paper bags were introduced causing a natural incline of cotton bags being used/bought. At the beginning of the 1960’s sack manufactures tried to draw customers in by collaborating with Disney and covering the sacks in a Cinderella and Buck Rogers pattern theme. This however, failed and it only the Amish community use the material flour and feed bags. Times had changed, people had more money and no longer were constrained by lack of money. Something I will be looking into is why people use craft today or why people are not as for my campaign I want to inspire the use of craft in clothing as an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of throwing clothing away.



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